Picking the right university or college for you

With 15 universities and 27 colleges here in Scotland, some might say you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to educational options after leaving school. So if you know what field you want to get into – how are you meant to decide where to study it? Here’s what to consider in your research.

Location

Where your chosen institution is located is a big issue – you’re potentially signing up for as much as five years, so you’ve got to like the place. If you visited Aberdeen once and loved it, you’re off to a flying start. If you can’t move away from home, get investigating what’s commutable and go check out the campus. Bottom line – you don’t want to end up in a city that you can’t stand, so do so visiting and Google the area before you make a commitment.

Finances

While Scots don’t have to pay for tuition fees (hurrah!), there’s still cost of living to consider. Have a chat with your ‘rents and see if moving away from home is an option. If they’re willing to support you, chat budget, and if they can’t, look into alternative funding options like loans, bursaries and part-time work. The cost of living is more expensive in some cities than others, so factor that into your thinking too – a flat in the west end of Glasgow, for instance, is going to cost you a lot more than moving to Dundee.

Results

Find out what you can about the course you want to study at each institution. Where does it rank in the university or college league tables? What kind of thing do former students say? Some establishments have a reputation for being really strong in certain areas – and employers tend to look favourably on their graduates. Find out as much as you can.

Facilities

Look into the university facilities too. Have they got top of the range science labs? How many computers are on-campus? Is there free wi-fi? Is there an on-site gym or student union? Check out what’s available for your course too – have they got industry-specific gadgets and gizmos which will mimic the workplace? All of this will make a real difference to your learning.

Course content

Go a step deeper and email the department that you fancy. Ask for a course descriptor to find out how it’s delivered, the topics that are covered, whether or not you’re required to undertake work experience, how many students they take on – it’ll help you see if it’s right for you.

Open days

Open days tend to take place in September, just before students return to class. Get along to as many as you can to get a real feel for what it’s like. Attend as many workshops and lectures as you can, speak to current students and other prospective students, pick up leaflets, visit halls of residence – drink it all in. It’s a great way to get a feel for a uni or college campus.

Remember: if you fall in love with one institution, don’t get too carried away – always have a back-up plan in case things go wrong.

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